Morocco closes the border crossing in Ceuta

Between the early hours of Monday morning and Tuesday afternoon, around 8,000 people entered irregularly
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REUTERS/JON NAZCA  -   Migrants run towards the fence separating Morocco from Spain, after thousands of migrants swam across the border, in Ceuta, Spain, 19 May 2021

Morocco puts an end to the massive influx of immigrants who have been able to enter Ceuta through the Tarajal border crossing. According to the EFE news agency, the Moroccan police have sealed off the entrance to the autonomous city on Wednesday, which has received 8,000 people in just over 24 hours.

The diplomatic crisis between Spain and Morocco is a rather recurrent one, which tends to lead to laxity on the part of the Moroccan authorities when it comes to controlling migratory flows. In recent hours, the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla have seen an unprecedented mass influx of immigrants. Meanwhile, Pedro Sánchez's government avoided linking this event to the Spanish government's reception of the secretary general of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali. The Kingdom of Morocco remains silent in the face of this 'migration crisis'.

The Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, clarified during the plenary session in Congress that "the Moroccan crisis is not a migratory crisis, it is a crisis of another kind and as such it has to be dealt with". Likewise, during his speech, Sánchez reported that around 4,800 people have already been returned. For her part, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Arancha González-Laya, during an interview with RTVE, declared that "this is a very complicated situation with a neighbour that Spain loves and with which it wants to have the best of relations".

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AP/MOSA'AB ELSHAMY - Barbed wire on its way to the area on the border of Morocco and Spain, in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The European Union has closed ranks around Spain. The High Representative of the European Union, Josep Borrell, declared his firm support for Ceuta, stating that the autonomous city is "the European border with Morocco, and the EU will do what is necessary to support Spain in these difficult times. The main priority now is to protect the lives of migrants and return Ceuta to normality". In addition to Borrell, other senior EU officials have shown their support for Spain on social media, including Ylva Johansson, Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and Charles Michel, President of the European Council.

Although Morocco has taken the step of closing the border crossing, the Spanish government admits that a diplomatic crisis has arisen with Morocco "following the events of the last few days in Ceuta, which have not yet been resolved". Although the Spanish government has avoided linking this migratory crisis with anything to do with Western Sahara or the reception of Polisario Front Secretary General Brahim Ghali, the Moroccan ambassador to Spain, Karima Benyaich, declared in an interview with Europa Press that there are acts that have consequences, "and they have to be assumed".

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AFP/ANTONIO SEMPERE - Spanish soldiers and members of the Guardia Civil patrol the border fence between Spain and Morocco in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, 19 May 2021

The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Arancha González-Laya, during an interview on RTVE, pointed out that "we know that Western Sahara is an issue of enormous sensitivity for Morocco, and, for this reason, Spain has always been exquisitely prudent in its position".

Spain has justified the reception of Brahim Ghali "for humanitarian reasons", but Morocco has not considered Madrid's explanations sufficient, to whom it has addressed two harsh communiqués. The latter described the Spanish government's attitude as "contrary to the spirit of association and good neighbourliness".

Silence is the official position from Morocco; the official news agency MAP has made no reference whatsoever to the massive influx of immigrants into Ceuta. But Morocco's Minister of Human Rights, Mustafa Ramid, has declared through his social networks that Spain knew "that the price of underestimating" his country "was very expensive".

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AP/BERNAT ARMANGUE - A migrant is attended to by a member of the Spanish Red Cross near the border of Morocco and Spain, in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Ramid added on his Facebook account that "the reception by Spain of the leader of the Polisario separatist militias, under a false identity, without taking into account good neighbourly relations which require coordination and consultation, or at least taking care to inform Morocco, is an irresponsible and totally unacceptable act".

He also regretted that Spain will prioritise its relations with Algeria over Morocco and justifies that the North African country is in its "full right" to let Spain know the "magnitude of its suffering in the name of this good neighbourliness" and that it will not accept "any underestimation".